A trial allowing some people travelling for business to self-isolate at home will begin next month - but it is only open to those who haven't been to countries considered high risk and those who have already received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine in New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the roadmap to reconnecting New Zealand was being released in a staged approach - and that included a self-isolation trial for some travellers.
She said the trial would involve 150 people and focus on those who needed to travel for business, primarily in the private sector.
There will be a small number of Government officials in the trial but the vast majority will be from the private sector.
She said those taking part must be New Zealand residents.
People wanting to be involved in the trial will need to arrive in New Zealand between October 30 and December 8, with final travellers leaving isolation by December 22.
Ardern said it would be coupled with a testing and monitoring regime. It is only being offered to businesses because they had "some skin in the game", she said.
Expressions of interest will open on Thursday, but they need to be filed by employers on behalf of employees. The application process will close on October 9.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins released more details about the programme on Monday afternoon, as Ardern was still taking questions about it at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference.
"Self-isolation must be in a private dwelling with no shared ventilation system," he said. "The dwelling must have cellular coverage. Monitoring and testing over the self-isolation period will be mandatory."
Hipkins described the pilot programme as a way for the Government to "test operational readiness, identify areas where further work is required to scale up the approach and provide valuable insights into our options for the future".
"As demand is expected to be higher than the numbers in the pilot, all eligible [expressions of interest] will be put into a ballot and spread across the six-week arrival timeframe," he said.
When asked during Ardern's press conference why it has taken 18 months to trial isolating at home, the PM said there had been "no room for error with this virus, so it has been very tightly run".
Self-isolation is only being considered in advance of a highly vaccinated public, she said.
Listen to epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker's thoughts on home isolation in the latest episode of On the Tiles:
Act leader David Seymour criticised the length of time it has taken to trial self-isolation, saying nothing has changed in the past six months and the Government was being driven by public opinion research instead of science.
"We should be up to thousands of travellers per week on a self-isolation scheme like this. The whole of Auckland has been self-isolating for the past seven weeks. Announcing 150 travellers will self-isolate after travelling is hardly news to them.
"A business travel network was first proposed by Act in March as part of our Covid 2.0 paper when we said, 'The Business Travel Network would establish special requirements for business travellers to come here while safely managing the risk of Covid-19.'"
He said Act's policy also had a traffic light system and special testing requirements.
The announcement was welcomed with open arms by Auckland Business Chamber CEO Michael Barnett, who predicted businesses "locked in New Zealand or marooned overseas and locked out of MIQ will leap at the opportunity" to participate in the trial.
He characterised the pilot programme as "the first crack to open the borders safely" for struggling businesses "desperate to get back in the market".
Barnett also predicted there won't be any setbacks as a result of the trial, even as Auckland still battles to eliminate the latest Delta outbreak.
"They have skin in the game and every business, especially the trailblazers of this trial, will want to show that they recognise that the ability to travel while New Zealand is living with restrictions to eliminate Covid is a privilege," he said.